Hoping To Change Some Attitudes

By Christy Goodman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 6, 2008

More than 250 neighbors of Constellation Energy's Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant recently toured the Lusby facility as the company opened its doors to the public for the first time since 2001.

The move could provide a public relations boost to the energy giant, which is seeking approval from federal and state regulatory agencies to build a third reactor.

Once routinely offered to school and community groups, plant tours were halted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacks. The October visits by relatives of plant employees and neighbors who live within a five-mile radius were the first since security has been upgraded at the plant, said Jim Spina, vice president at Calvert Cliffs.

"Regardless of your stand on nuclear power, you were invited," Spina said, noting that the tours were conducted to help the public understand nuclear power and how the plant operates.

Plant employees doubled as tour guides, answering questions on topics such as the amount of electricity produced by the loud, churning turbines and how Calvert Cliffs officials handle opposition to the proposed third reactor.

"It is a great public relations thing," Chuck Lockerby of Drum Point said after a tour.

Lockerby, who bought property in Calvert in 1970 and has lived in the county since 1986, said he favors a third reactor, which could nearly double the capacity of the plant on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay.

"It is going to reduce our taxes, for those of us who have lived here so long," he said.

"And we need more energy sources," said his wife, Jean.

Constellation Energy has significant support elsewhere in Calvert for a third reactor. Elected officials and many residents say they think it would result in hundreds of new jobs and $20 million a year in tax revenue.

The plant employs more than 800 people, mostly Southern Maryland residents. The Board of County Commissioners has offered 15 years' worth of tax breaks to Constellation, valued at $300 million, to build another reactor.

Some people, who spoke during public hearings the Maryland Public Service Commission held in the summer, said they were concerned about the plant's safety, evacuation routes and the storage areas for the nuclear waste.

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